[AAACE-NLA] STAR Struck!
Susan Finn Miller
susanfinn_miller at iu13.org
Wed Feb 7 17:12:23 EST 2007
I have been in the field of adult literacy education for almost 16 years.
During that time, I have taught ABE, GED, Family Literacy and all levels of
ESL with some success. While I have certainly had course work and
professional development over the years that focused on reading
comprehension, none of my undergraduate, graduate, or professional
development training taught me how to assess and teach reading to struggling
readers. As a result, I have sought out this information through self study.
Over the last few years, the vast information I have found about teaching
reading to intermediate level readers in K12 resources (e.g., materials by
Isabel Beck, Janet Allen, Richard Allington, Ellin Oliver Keene & Susan
Zimmermann, Linda Hoyt, Jeanne Paratore, Linda Christenson, Ted Rasinski,
Kelly Gallagher, etc., etc) and in adult literacy resources, (e.g. Pat
Campbell's useful book Teaching Reading to Adults: A Balanced Approach) is
in line with the methods and techniques recommended in the STAR materials.
The big difference for me is that I now know how to teach reading to
struggling intermediate level readers. My participation last year as a
member of the national STAR reading training team was instrumental in
building my skills to train others.
I agree with my friend and colleague, Karen Mundie, that literacy council's
have been doing this forever; however, besides this group, most of my adult
education colleagues in Pennsylvania are like me and have never been trained
in how to teach struggling readers.
Tom points out that STAR is not built on a body of empirical research on
teaching reading to adults. STAR is actually based mostly on research with
children where there is a much larger body of evidence. Why not train adult
literacy teachers on techniques and methods for teaching reading that have
proven successful with children? What have we got to lose? We just might
gain a great deal of useful information about what works and what doesn't,
and some adult learners might just learn to read.
Susan Finn Miller, PhD
On 2/7/07 4:01 PM, "Karen Mundie" <kmundie at gplc.org> wrote:
> I have to say in STAR's defense that the techniques in the TOOLkit are same
> ones collected together that most anyone who was seriously trying to teach
> reading-- and willing to a little research on how it could be done--would
> likely use. I don't think any reading professional looking at the Toolkit
> would be a bit surprised at the content.
> The important thing is, and what I think STAR most emphasizes, is that reading
> needs to be taught. I was a bit involved in the first year of the pilot, and
> I'll l never forget the moment when one of the teacher participants said, "I
> used to assign reading; I teach it now." I'm afraid that outside of literacy
> councils (and maybe inside, too) there's still a whole lot of assigning going
> Karen Mundie
> Associate Director
> Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council
> 100 Sheridan Square, 4th Floor
> Pittsburgh, PA 15206
> 412 661-7323 (ext 101)
> kmundie at gplc.org
> GPLC - Celebrating 25 years of literacy, 1982-2007
> This e-mail is intended solely for the use of the named addressees and is not
> meant for general distribution. If you are not the intended recipient, please
> report the error to the originator and delete the contents.
> On Feb 6, 2007, at 6:41 PM, tsticht at znet.com wrote:
>> February 6, 2007
>> The Federal STAR (STudent Achievement in Reading) Project: Why Now?
>> Tom Sticht
>> International Consultant in Adult Education
>> Recently the U. S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult
>> Education (OVAE), Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL) announced
>> the STAR web site and professional development activity. The web site
>> provides information about STAR:
>> Quote:"What is STAR?
>> STAR is a comprehensive toolkit and training package to help Adult Basic
>> Education (ABE) instructors use evidence-based reading instruction in the
>> classroom. For more information, see About STAR.
>> What is the National STAR Training Network?
>> The National STAR Training Network (NSTN) encompasses national and state
>> experts in reading instruction, state and federal policymakers, and
>> practitioners. All are working in partnership with the U.S. Department of
>> Education to use evidence-based reading instruction and the STAR model to
>> improve adult reading. For more information see Contact the Network.
>> Why STAR?
>> STAR delivers the tools and techniques teachers need to help adult learners
>> read and achieve."
>> In and of itself, the idea of tools and techniques to help adult learners
>> read and achieve is not very notable because there are already numerous
>> tools and techniques , commercial programs, etc. that aim to do the same
>> thing. But repeatedly the STAR web site says it aims at assisting adult
>> educators to use "evidence-based" reading instruction. It describes
>> "evidence-based" and says: Quote:"Evidence-based reading instruction (EBRI)
>> integrates findings from the best available reading research with
>> practitioner wisdom to inform instructional decisions. With EBRI, teachers
>> use diagnostic assessment procedures to gauge the strengths and weaknesses
>> of each learner and target reading instruction accordingly. Teachers that
>> use EBRI help learners improve their skills in each of the four components
>> of reading - alphabetics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension - by
>> explaining new concepts, modeling strategies, and providing feedback when
>> learners practice."
>> However, the STAR web site provides no evidence that following its
>> evidence-based approach will improve adult reading instruction over what is
>> already being done by adult literacy educators. I have searched for
>> scientific research indicating that a focus on alphabetics (code emphasis
>> in Jeanne Chall's terms) with adults with low literacy produced better
>> learning outcomes than some other, perhaps whole language (meaning emphasis
>> in Jeanne Chall's terms) approach. But I have found no such research. No
>> such research is cited on the STAR web site, and the report on principles
>> of adult reading instruction that is mentioned does not include any such
>> research, either.
>> The evidence that the STAR web site mentions also includes "professional
>> wisdom," however no citation of professional wisdom is given. I have looked
>> at historical approaches to teaching adults to read to find professional
>> wisdom in using either code or meaning emphases. Cora Wilson Stewart in
>> 1911 and beyond did not like the alphabetics approach and clearly stated
>> that adults should be taught using the "word" approach. Reports of her work
>> indicate that more than 180,000 adults learned to read following her "whole
>> language" approach. But in World War I, J. Duncan Spaeth took a strong
>> alphabetics (phonics) approach to teaching reading to soldiers. Then in
>> World War II, Paul Witty took a strong "word", "whole language" approach,
>> and indeed teachers in Special Training Units got demerits if they
>> emphasized phonics too much. It is reported that over a quarter million
>> soldiers learned to read using this meaning emphasis approach.
>> Septima Poinsette Clark favored a whole language approach in teaching some
>> 10,000 teachers to teach 700,000 adults to read and write to vote in the
>> early civil rights movement. Frank Laubach strongly favored a code emphasis
>> while Ruth Colvin, founder of Literacy Volunteers of America favored a
>> whole language approach (interestingly, Laubach and Colvin have merged into
>> one organization, ProLiteracy Worldwide).
>> This type of variable historical data on professional wisdom, and the lack
>> of any solid research that I have found on the relative effectiveness with
>> adults of the code or meaning emphases leaves me without any good data to
>> help make decisions about the use of these two approaches. I know that
>> Jeanne Chall favored the code approach in her clinical work but her
>> reported gains did not seem to be much better, if at all better, than what
>> other adult literacy programs reported. As I read the STAR web page, it
>> appears that the STAR approach has been developed in large part by former
>> students of Jeanne at Harvard.
>> It seems to me that the evidence base for the effectiveness of the STAR
>> approach to adult literacy education is lacking, in both professional
>> wisdom and scientific research. It seems to me that the national
>> dissemination effort funded by the federal government is premature. I think
>> that before such an expensive (over $31,400 for 45 adult educators) national
>> dissemination effort is undertaken there should be research conducted to
>> show that the STAR approach is more effective than other approaches to
>> teaching reading with adults.
>> Too often national efforts by the federal government have been undertaken
>> and millions of dollars have been spent to disseminate the efforts, only to
>> see them fade away with little apparent long-lasting improvement to the
>> Adult Education and Literacy System (AELS) of the United States. Will STAR
>> go this way, too?
>> Whatever happened to the Adult Performance Level (APL) project?
>> Whatever happened to the Equipped for the Future (EFF) project?
>> Are we about to be STAR stuck!
>> Thomas G. Sticht
>> International Consultant in Adult Education
>> 2062 Valey View Blvd.
>> El Cajon, CA 92019-2059
>> Tel/fax: (619) 444-9133
>> Email: tsticht at aznet.net
>> AAACE-NLA mailing list: AAACE-NLA at lists.literacytent.org
>> LiteracyTent: web hosting, news, community and goodies for literacy
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